Monday, June 30, 2008

Summer runnin'

Remember this one?

Summer runnin', had me a blast...
Summer runnin', happened so fast...*

Uh, well, maybe that's not quite right. (There was nothing fast about it.)

But it was summer, that's for sure!

I would say that yesterday was my first real summertime run this year. I did in fact go to the beach at my parents' house, and I actually managed to go pretty darn early. Early for me, on a Sunday, anyway.

Low tide was around 8:22 a.m., and I got to the house just a little before 8:00. I am aware that it would be just as effective to start out an hour or so before low tide, but I'm rather impressed that I even got there as early as I did. It was a really low tide, -1'2", which basically means lots of open beach and tide flats all morning long. I hit the beach around 8:15.

My plan for Sunday was to do at least a 10 mile long run. The easiest (if "easy" is the right word) way to do this would be just to double up my usual 5+ mile beach route. I considered a variation where I would get onto the road from the beach and finish up on the road, but I didn't realy want to do that on a day when there was so much good beach. (Better on a day when the tide is coming in fast!) Also, I didn't really like the idea of running on a busy road when I could be on a deserted beach instead!

Or I could see how far I could get in the opposite direction after I finished my first out and back. Usually the section of beach east of my parents' is rockier and harder to run on, but with a super-low tide who knows? I decided to play it by ear and see what happened.

I started out easy going west toward Mission Beach. Although the beachscape is ever changing, there are certain landmarks (beachmarks?) that remain pretty consistent. Over the years we have named various landmarks and measured distance by them. Colon's bulkhead, Black Rock, Brown Rock, White Rock, Mission Beach, Mission Head (the last two being actual geographic locations) and various enduring logs and trees have punctuated our walks and runs. My informal measuring scale is ½ mile to Black Rock (or is it Brown Rock?), ¾ mile to White Rock, 1 mile to Mission, 1½ to Mission Head. By using MapMyRun I've been able to measure the whole distance, but there's no way to really calculate these informal mileposts.**

Once nice thing about running at the beach is that it's usually not as hot as running on the road. (Usually? Try never!) At 8:30 it was warm already, but pleasantly so. I dressed for the weather in a white cap, sleeveless shirt, sunscreen on my face, neck and arms, and a waist pack to carry my phone and other odds and ends that would usually go into a jacket pocket. I carried one 16 ounce bottle of water and left two more on the deck for later.

Running on a Tulalip beach is not like running on an ocean beach. It's not just sand! The terrain varies from hard packed sand (the best), to wet or dry soft sand, small rocks, big rocks (sometimes covered with barnacles and/or seaweed), and lots of logs of various shapes and sizes. I'm quite good at picking out the optimal running surface. I like firm sand the best (obviously), but small gravel-like rocks aren't bad either. In the sections of beach that have a lot of big, barnacly rocks you can often pick your way between the rocks, but there are always a few spots where the terrain is so rough that I have to walk, because running is just too risky. (The triple threat: tripping, slipping, and cutting your legs to pieces on the barnacles!)

The first bit of beach, from my parents' to Colons' Bulkhead, is usually fairly decent; slightly rocky (more gravel-like), but manageable. The long stretch between Colons' Bulkhead and Mission is the best. Very few rocks, long sandy stretches, usually packed firm (although occasionally soft and mushy). Mission Beach protrudes out into a point known as Mission Head. The section of beach approaching and around Mission Head is the most difficult—always rocky. I usually zig and zag from sandy patch to sandy patch, but inevitably have to drop to a walk to get past it.

I think I have learned some trail running style skills while running on the rocky beach. I find that instead of holding my arms in a typical running posture, I let them swing more freely on rough surfaces. This helps with balance and decreases the likelihood of taking a fall.

Once around Mission Head, the beach surfaces turns back into more navigable sand and gravel (though not as nice as the earlier section), and I can run freely until I run out of beach. How soon that happens depends entirely on the tide. Of course if the tide is very far in, I can't even get that far at all. But when the tide is out, I can run not only to the end of the beach, but out onto a sandbar that extends into Tulalip Bay. I call this the "spit" and it is only accessible at low tide. The sandbar is covered with barnacles, so it makes for a very crunchy run. I figure that the trip out and back is at least a quarter mile, so I added that to my total mileage.

Here is a picture of the spit, looking back toward the beach.

And here I am, in a typically unflattering cell phone self-portrait!

This picture of my shadow shows the real me—small head and big legs!
So, after dilly-dallying with picture taking (trying to get a halfway decent photo of myself), I headed back toward Potlatch to complete my first lap.

Back at the cabin, I decided to keep on going eastward and see how far I could get. I always consider the beach going toward Priest Point less desirable for running, but with the tide out so far it wasn't bad. In fact there were some sections that were quite open and sandy. I went as far as I felt I could go, almost to the end of the houses where several docks protruded over the beach. I think it may be possible to continue further on with some scrambling, but not running. So I turned around and retraced my steps.

Back at the cabin again, I faced a dilemma. Do I keep on going? Or do I detour up to the house for a bathroom stop? I chose the bathroom (no need to make myself uncomfortable). The stairway from the beach to the house is 120 steps, so it's not like I was slacking by going up there.

Since I was at the house, though, I pulled up MapMyRun just in case I had already run my 10 miles. I was pretty sure I hadn't, but might as well check. Sure enough, my calculations said just 8½ miles so far (including the extra spit). So, back to the beach it was (first grabbing a bite-sized piece of kringle*** that my parents brought me from church).

I just repeated the section from Potlatch to Mission Beach, turning around where I saw the Mission Beach road, to make an easily measurable distance. (It later measured out about 1½ miles each way, making my total run 11½ miles; perfect.)

I walked a little bit on the beach to cool down, and did ten angled push-up with my arms on a low log and my feet in the sand. Then I headed back up to the house. Usually when I go up the 120 steps it is a matter of pride for me to do them all without stopping or getting out of breath. Most people rest at the numerous landings along the way. But today I made a point of stopping at every landing to do stretches. I am notoriously bad about stretching after running—I figure I get my stretches in yoga class. But I thought it couldn't hurt to incorporate a little stretching into my running—and the benches on the landings were a great tool.

I got up to the house just in time for my sister's call saying that they were coming over to put out the kayaks. The summer before last I kayaked every single weekend in the summer, but I'm afraid we didn't take them out at all last year.

My mother and I made a quick trip to the Farmer's Market and grocery store to pick up food before Gretchen, Todd and Nissa (the dog) arrived.

When we got back Todd was already at the beach, but Gretchen and Nissa had come back up for some reason. We loaded up with pop and chips and headed back down. Then, after eating some chips and salsa, I took Nissa down to play on the beach while Gretchen and Todd got the kayaks out and cleaned them up. (I cleverly escaped the grunge work by dog-sitting.)

We only have two kayaks, so Todd took one and Gretchen let me take the other. I started out by paddling toward Mission, although I didn't go quite the whole distance, turning around a ways past White Rock. Then I went on a bit in the other direction. When I thought I was going to go in, Gretchen shouted that she was coming out. So I waited for her and we paddled down toward Priest Point. (We always try to go "against" the current on the way out and "with" it on the way back, to make an easier trip back. But it was kind of hard to tell whether the current had changed when the tide turned today. We finally decided that it was faster going back toward Mission, so that must be the way the current was going.)

All in all, I kayaked for about an hour and a half. Good work for my shoulders and arms, I hope!

And that was about it for Sunday. I spent some of my time out in the kayak thinking of planning longer kayaking excursions (like going up the river) and what it would take to arrange something like that. Or making my own mini-triathlon by bicycling to my parents' house (nine miles from my house), running on the beach, and kayaking (with the kayaking substituting for swimming, and I know the order is wrong).

We finished the evening with hamburgers from the grill. My only regret was that I had to head back to work on Monday! As always, I felt like I could use a day off after the weekend.

(Even though my Sunday was not nearly as grueling as it was for those who ran the Seafair Marathon!)

*You may be more familiar with this version:

**Until I get my Garmin! Which should be arriving any day now. I finally broke down and ordered one. I'm pretty excited. Although my ability to understand and use it is possibly questionable. I think I've already mentioned my two watches which I can barely set. And I have a bluetooth earpiece for my phone which I've had for a year but not yet activated... which had better happen soon, I guess, as the "no cell phone" driving law goes into effect on July 1.

***I really wanted to post a picture of this scrumptious Scandinavian treat, but I couldn't find one that reflects kringle as I know it. The linked recipe is pretty similar to my family recipe, except that we cut the base into two inch wide strips and then top it with spoonsfuls of the cream puff-like batter, which are cut into individual pastries after baking then drizzled with almond flavored icing and sprinkled with chopped almonds. Yummalicious!! I really need to make some this summer. On a hiatus from the no-sweets ban that is currently in effect.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

So very, very hot

Today it was hot. Tonight in my house, it is hot and stuffy. While waiting for my window fan to cool my bedroom, I am eating sugarfree frozen fruit pops... ahhh, cold and icy. And drippy.

Tomorrow, in my air-conditioned office, I shall write.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

I take it all back, I love summer!

I walked home from my office around 9:30 tonight. It was just dusk, and cooling off, but still pleasant enough that I felt just right in my sleeveless top. The walk was so nice that I didn't want to stop when I got to my house... except that I wanted dinner, so I went in.

This may be the best part of summer, the long warm evenings. I had forgotten how lovely they are.

Feeling the heat

Tomorrow is looking like my first long run in the real summer heat. Our weather has been cool, even cold, for most of the spring... but this weekend summer has arrived (yes, a week late).

I'm kind of nervous. I don't have to run in the heat; if I get up reasonably early I can do it while it's still mild out. I just don't know if I have the ability to get up at 6 (or even 7) a.m. on a Sunday morning! My best bet is to shoot for 6 and maybe I can get out there at 7.

I only want to do about ten miles. Maybe eleven. My total mileage is already up there this week, thanks to the extra run on Thursday, but with the Anacortes half marathon approaching in a month, I need to keep doing the long runs as well as logging aggregate miles. I keep tinkering with where I want to go (based on starting from my house), but I haven't managed to settle on a route. Clearly I am just ambivalent about the whole idea.

The other possibility is going to my parents' house and running on the beach. The tide is low around 8 a.m., which is perfect, but I would have to do some tinkering with the route to get a decent length run. My typical beach run, which involves running westward until there is no more beach, then retracing my steps back, is only about 5½ miles total. But I'll bet I can come up with something... it would be worth it to go to the beach instead of the hot streets. (And no need to get up at 6... 7 would still be a good idea, though.)

Today was a non-running day. I walked to the Y and did the Saturday yoga class, then 40 minutes on the elliptical cross trainer. Later on I walked to my office to do the paychecks for Monday while watching The Office online. I'm still sitting here, but need to head home before it starts to get dark (which will be a while, it's only 9:00 now). At least dawdling around the deserted office kept me away from weekend noshing at home (although I did eat way too many Starlight peppermint candies, pure sugar).

Best wishes tomorrow to all the brave souls running the Seafair Marathon!

Friday, June 27, 2008

It must be something in the air...

Or the water. Or perhaps the chocolate chip cookies.

It is kind of ridiculous that I am writing this with my stomach full of all the sugary junk I have eaten all day—and really that is all I have eaten, except for some egg and sausage casserole (which was at least protein, if not a model of healthful eating).

But what I am writing about is the trouble everyone is having with their weight these days. By everyone I don't mean the world in general—although we know that's true—but rather people who shouldn't be struggling too much with weight gain. People who have (supposedly) mastered the skills of healthy eating and exercise and weight loss, yet suddenly find themselves wearing a few extra pounds around their midsection. And still find themselves tempted by the sweet lure of office treats and weekend goodies.

I can name names. Only people who have publicly admitted this, of course. (I am assuming that anyone who posts something on a blog would not object to being quoted or linked here.)

There's me. I have written numerous times about five or so extra pounds that I have put on this spring, which are in addition to the ten pounds I really wanted to lose prior to spring (see, e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6).

At least three of the running bloggers I read regularly have mentioned putting on a few pounds despite their running, or perhaps because of it.... Marathon Mama would like to find her lost running shoes and favorite hat, and lose the weight she gained during marathon training. Patti (a sistah with blistahs) has given up pizza, mostly, to help reduce her belly and look hotter—er, stronger and faster—while running. Absolut(ly) Fit Laura admits to having gained twelve pounds since December, probably thanks to travelling for work and the eating and drinking that goes along with that. And there's probably a few others who are hiding a few pounds underneath their loosely fitting technical fabric race shirts!

Amongst the weight loss bloggers there is a similar trend. My friend Mel is working on getting back on track (and we know she will), but like many of us turns to the high glycemic but oh-so-tasty treats in times of stress. Jennette Fulda, aka PastaQueen, author of Half-Assed: A Weight Loss Memoir, admits that she's gained a few pounds and struggles with tasty treats. (My theory: when a food tastes too good, especially sweet or salty, it is just too hard to stop eating it within reasonable limits. Thus best to avoid such foods most of the time.) Shawna Reid, also known as Dietgirl and also a published author (unlike those of us who just yammer on without anybody offering a book deal or any money), who has a fondness for Green & Black's chocolate, says she continues to struggle with food issues. (She doesn't say whether she's gained a few pounds, but really, who hasn't?) And Morgan, who has not gained weight, still struggles with temptations.

And we can't forget my mother, who is not a blogger, and probably will never read this (hence it is safe to write about her), who has had years of weight ups and downs, and bequeathed me her sweet tooth and weight issues. Of course it doesn't help that when I get a cinnamon roll after a race, I share it with her.

So now that I've outed everyone, what's my point here? I think it's obvious that if you eat too many cinnamon rolls you are going to gain weight (and possibly, though I hate to say it, if you eat any cinnamon rolls you are not going to lose weight); and running alone doesn't keep you from gaining weight; and lots of people actually gain weight when they are training for a big race.

But actually, what I've been thinking about is why now? Why in April, May, June, when the weather is getting nicer and the days are longer, is it the time for pounds to creep on? (Or is it simply a delayed effect from Christmas?)

I read an article in Woman's World magazine (yes, the supermarket rag) which, although I am not adopting it as the final answer, promoted an interesting theory in one of its diet pieces a few weeks ago.* I wish I had the magazine so I could discuss it more intelligently. But since I don't, I am free to make things up as I go.

The main theory of the diet is that people tend to gain weight in the summer because our bear-like bodies want to store fat to get us through the long lean winters. We stay fat (and gain more), because modern technology has deprived us of natural winter. That is, electrical light and artificial heat made even our winter days more similar to summer. Thus, instead of using up the stored fat for energy, our bodies continue to conserve.

I have no idea what the food plan was to combat this phenomenon. Probably eat protein, low glycemic carbs, and good fats. But one of the other tips was to make your days more like winter days, by going to bed early and probably using blackout shades to suppress the long evenings. Then your body will be tricked into going into fat burning mode.

I don't really think that I can adopt this scheme, although I know that I need to get more sleep. But I love the long summer evenings too much to block them out before nightfall.

One thing that I do take out of this, though, is the possibility that my body may be trying to conserve fat for some undefined future starvation period. Thus it is luring me into nibbling on cookies and hot tamales and other fat-promoting foods. Then, as we all know, sugar wants more sugar, as insulin spikes and drops, stimulating cravings and, probably, binges. (Obviously, this is just my take on the more scientific things I've read. It may not be exactly what happens, but it is certainly what happens to me.)

If knowledge is power, then self-knowledge is self-power. The more I know about myself, the more powerful I become. And what I know is that sweets don't do me any good. It sounds so obvious, but I just have to keep reminding myself because I do love my cake. But really? I love my proteins, vegetables and low-glycemic carbs, and good fats (like nuts, avocado, and olive oil, in small amounts) just as well.

And I love the feeling of my clothes fitting snugly against my body, rather than my body pressing against my clothes trying to escape (it's a very fine line). And I love the thought that a few pounds less of me will lighten the load in the next half marathon. (Can't expect too much change by the next 10K, on the 4th of July.)

Earlier this evening I sat here at my office and ate lots of lowfat vanilla ice cream, because it tasted good, and for all the other reasons I mentioned above. But the whole time I've been writing this (and it took a while, with deviations to other sites, email, etc.), I've not had any desire to go back for more. All it took was a little bit of thinking about what I was doing to dampen my cravings. So let's stop being hungry bears, shall we? There's plenty of food out there for winter. No need to eat it all now!

*The magazine has a different diet on its cover every week, and I find them fascinating. Curiously, although the diet theories vary, the sample menus always seem very similar and actually quite sensible, stressing protein, vegetables, whole grain or low glycemic carbs, and good fats such as nuts; with a tweak or two to bring it in line with the diet of the week.

Only in my dreams

I had a dream the other night that I was wearing a Deena Kastor style running outfit.

Not a pretty sight. (Me, that is.) For one thing (in the dream) my underwear was sticking out above and below the skimpy running pants! The rest of what was probably sticking out has been mercifully blotted from my memory.

Do you think that is a not-so-subtle manifestation of my wish to be Deena Kastor? Or Deena Kastor-like? I am a big fan (as I may have hinted before). Here's a great video about her.

(I am also newly obsessed with YouTube. Ever since I figured out the other day how to embed video clips! I expect many of my posts to be video-enhanced in future.)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I'm running free!

My big trial settled, freeing me from the burden of nervous anticipation that has gripped me all week; freeing me from spending every evening and all weekend prepping for it; freeing me from several days of trial and horrific testimony and sad, horrible pictures and the anger, sadness and desperation of all who were involved in this horrible incident. Including my poor client, a boy whose disastrous upbringing led him to a night where a moment's bad decision led to a tragedy that he never intended, never expected, and didn't even cause himself, but due to the strange laws of accomplice liability, will be held responsible for over the next few years and, in some ways, for the rest of his life.

While I am relieved that this is resolved, I am not completely happy because I will always wonder, a little bit, whether this was the right decision, whether we should perhaps have held firm and fought it out till the end. I know the choice we made was not the wrong decision; I just hope it was also the right decision.

And so it's a little bit hard to be completely ebullient over my free weekend, even though that's really what I had in mind when I first started writing. It's good, though. Not only will I have my weekend back (and my weeknights at the Y), I can also use the freed up time next week to catch up on the cases and tasks I pushed to the side this week in my frenzy of witness interviews, evidence viewing, and research.

I can go for a long run on Sunday without worrying whether it would wear me out too much to work; I can soak up the predicted 80-degree sunshine, and perhaps I can do some more work on my garden without waiting until the 4th of July weekend, which had been my original plan.

Before I knew how things would turn out today, I went for an unscheduled early morning run. Thursday is usually a Y morning, but when I turned up there before 6:00, the Y was closed due to a fire in the next block the night before, which had led to some smoke infiltration in neighboring buildings, including the Y.

So there I was at 6 a.m. with, as I saw it, three options. I could go home and go back to bed for a while before getting ready for work (tempting). I could go home and get dressed and go to work an hour early for a change (not too appealing, after working till 10 p.m. the night before). Or I could go home, put on my running shoes, and go for a run.

Which is what I did. The beauty of the plan was that I was still starting out fifteen minutes earlier than usual, which meant I could take a leisurely (6.3 mile) run and still have time to stop at Starbucks on the way home.

And this evening I was back at the Y for a stint on the cross-trainer and my favorite yoga class. Just like any other Thursday. Everything's back to normal; and yet, everything's changed.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Running under pressure

Sometimes I find that a jolt of adrenaline, even if it is negative adrenaline, gives me the energy to run faster and harder than I typically would on an easy, everyday run.

On one occasion last year, after having an irritating encounter in a cafe where I wanted to use the bathroom, I sprinted away from there in righteous indignation at an amazing speed!

Another time last spring, while stewing over a difficult client and his extremely obnoxious father, who between them were making my life hell, I found my tempo runs surprisingly easy.

This morning, as the PSI increases in the cookpot that is my life, I ratcheted up my running pace to match the turmoil in my head. No, there was not steam coming out my ears, but there was sweat pouring off my face! I felt like I was running close to a 10K pace, although I couldn't really gauge it because I had too many stops (bathroom, twice) and stoplights to actually measure my real running time. I did run eight miles, which is a couple more than a typical workday, although slightly shy of the distance I would have estimated for the route.

Did the run relieve the pressure? Yes, temporarily. I worked through some of the trial issues and geared myself up to get through another day.

I am not really the stress-crazed psycho that I may sound like. Between all the running and other working out that I do, I have enough seratonin flowing through my body to maintain a generally calm and cheerful demeanor. Most of the time I actually feel that way too! It's like Elle says in Legally Blonde:

So clearly it is important to keep running as much as possible during stressful times, even if I am forced to forgo Pilates class in order to get my extra work done!

(In full disclosure, I've found that Hot Tamales also produce some pretty sweet endorphins. It took the better part of a largish bag to get me through my brief writing last night. Chocolate covered Altoids aren't bad either, and are a good substitute for chocolate espresso beans if you want to avoid the caffeine. I may be moving on to my Red Fire chocolate bar next....)

Monday, June 23, 2008

A long, hard road

That is what I expect the next two weeks to be. Not the running road, but a life/work road. My life will be hard because work will be hard. The light at the end of the tunnel (a few mixed metaphors here) will only come after the third 0f July. Yes, that's right, on July 4, Independence Day, I should finally be free of this huge burden. (Not that there won't be more burdens to come, many more!) (It's a big, stressful trial, okay?)

So for the next couple of weeks I really have to devote myself to work, which may mean less time writing here and more time writing my trial brief. (It better mean that.) I still plan to get up early to run before work, although some of my evenings in the Y may have to be sacrificed to the office. No more races until the 4th of July.

Running has been a sanctuary for me. When I am running I can dwell on work stuff if I want to, but I can also put it out of my mind for the hour or so I'm out on the road. It's easier to do this when I'm running than when I'm in yoga class, for some reason.

I did find, however, last year when I had a big trial to work on, that I had to stop running for a few days to really focus on the trial. I had to get out of my regular pattern, which included the running, to shake myself up so I spent the extra time I needed at work. So we'll see how it goes this time around.

I shook myself up a little this morning when I was running by tripping and falling hard. My only lasting injury was a badly scraped knee. It is still quite raw but mostly covered by my knee-length dress. Between leaving five minutes late and the fall, I ended up having to cut my run a half mile or so short, in order to have enough time to get ready for work. Priorities... I guess going to work with regular clothes on and dry hair takes a slightly higher priority over running a few more blocks!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I finally finished Bloomsday...

And here is my story.

Will I never learn?

I'm a little bit like Drew Barrymore's character in 50 First Dates, in the way I can do the same thing over and over again, and never seem to remember the lessons I learned when I did it the first time. More on that later....

So today was the Race for the Cure in downtown Seattle, which required an early morning departure from home. I got up early enough today to try a 15 minute soak in a hot tub, which I once read can help loosen you up before running. Most of the time I can't be bothered to do anything so complicated as bathing before running... throwing my clothes and shoes on is about all I can manage. But today I took the time to run the tub, throwing in Espsom salts and arnica bath oil for good measure, and even dozed off for a few minutes before leaping out of the water and throwing my clothes on. (Which is a little more difficult with damp skin, another reason why I usually don't bother.)

I wore a specially selected "Race for the Cure" outfit consisting of a hot pink shirt and my pink running cap. Gotta dress for the occasion! I grabbed bananas and a toasted English muffin with chocolate peanut butter to eat on the way, and after a stop at Starbucks, we headed south to Seattle.

It was soon after that that that first round of amnesia set in. Once again, neither my mother nor I could remember exactly how to get to Qwest Field. I know that sounds really stupid, but we don't go to football games (or even baseball games at nearby Safeco Field), and this run only happens once a year. So the following déjà vu-like coversation took place: (M is mother, K is me.)

M: "What exit do we take?"
K: "I'm not sure, there should be signs."
K: "Okay, there's a sign, take the first exit."
K: "Darn, maybe we should have taken the second exit."
K: "Turn up there."
K: "No, right turn!"
K: "Keep going, keep going."
K: "Take a left!!!"
K: "Look, there's the stadium. I'm sure that lot where we parked before is right up there... there it is!"
K: "Okay, take the next left and go back."
K: "In here, here!"

(Note - there were other comments by my mother in between my directions, they are just not publishable here.)

K: (In the parking lot) "Give him $10."
M: "Maybe I should just wait in the car."
K: "You're not sitting in the car!"
M: (Walking) "It's a long way to the stadium, isn't it?"
K: "Oh look, parking in the garage (right next to the stadium) is only $5. We should remember that next year..." (I swear, I have said that every single year.)
M: "I wish I'd remembered to put on my step counter."

If we'd thought about it in advance, we could have taken the Sounder train to King Street Station and not even had to park at all. Maybe next year... if I remember. Which is unlikely.

So I went through the usual confusion of where to get my bib and T-shirt (which I eventually decided to wear over my pink shirt, despite the risk of overheating). If I can't raise thousands of dollars for the cure, at least I can wear the shirt in the race!

By the time we got ourselves all sorted out, found the start line and finish line, and made arrangements where to meet afterward, my warmup time was running out. So I abandoned my mother and took off around the end of Safeco Field (which is just south of Qwest Field). I ran up the sidewalk passing over the road and train tracks, then looped back--and was stopped short by an oncoming freight train. I waited impatiently with a crowd of other runners/walkers for the train to pass (it was a long one) then returned to the start line area. My warm up was not as long as I would have liked. But I am giving myself credit for 4.8 miles total today (enough to make 30 for the week) because despite the slightly short warm up, we walked a lot to and from and around the area.

I was running in the 8:30 co-ed 5K, which I've always done. That's always sounded more appealing than the women's competitive 5K. But I'm thinking twice about that. I may switch next year. I think the smaller field would give me a better opportunity to run well. These mob-like runs are always so frustrating because the crowds hold me back. (If I was really motivated I could do the 8 a.m. 5K followed by the 8:30 as a cool-down... but I'm not making any vows. I've always wanted to do the 5K walk (at 9 a.m.) after the run, but have never convinced anyone to walk with me.)

Unlike past years, where there were pace signs at the start (I was all prepared to get into the 8 minute group), this time there were none and everyone just gathered in a mob. I tried to get a little bit closer to the front than the back, although there were still too many people in front of me.

Here is where the amnesia kicked in again. I've been running mostly smaller races where everybody is competitive in their own way (whether they're fast or not), and I'm always startled by these popular Seattle fun runs filled with people who sort of bob along, walking, hanging with their friends, slowing me down.

Needless to say, this race is not chip timed.

Although not as bad as the Jingle Bell Run, there was some delay at the start before I even crossed the starting line. I did manage to look at my watch at the start line (8:34) so I could at least estimate my own "chip time."*

Even once I crossed the line, though, I was still trapped in a slow jog interspersed with bursts of speed as I wove my way through the crowd, trying to find myself a good space and a good pace. By the time we got to the one-mile mark, I felt I was running well, and I calculated by my watch that I was under nine minutes, even with the delay in the beginning. I decided not to look at my watch again, though, because that would just be too stressful.

I knew by that time, though, that this would not be the 5K where I break 25 minutes. I don't know what was in my head that I even though that was a possibility. I think it was because last year I felt my time was quite good, even without a chip, and my 5K times have improved a lot over the last year. On the other hand, I'm sure the race started much quicker and smoother last year than this.

It did cross my mind that I could just take it easy, knowing I wasn't going to make a PR, but I didn't want to give up that much. So I kept pushing it, powering up the hills and making a concerted effort to run faster on the downhills, passing people where I could and, of course, being passed on occasion as well. After at least the first mile the road was open enough that I could establish the pace I wanted, without having to veer around people too much.

Then, pretty quickly (as happens in 5K's), the end was approaching. I decided that once we turned toward the finish line I would put on a final burst. I couldn't see the clock though, until I got quite close.

And 27 minutes was approaching far too quickly. I ran as hard as I could to stay under 27, but it clicked over just as I crossed the finish line. It was about 27:01 or :02. My watch time was about 26.5 minutes. Either way, considerably slower than last week's time. (Was that just a week ago? It seems so long.) Still, considering the crowds and delays, it wasn't too bad.

I found my mother and she informed me that the battery in my camera was dead. She had just managed to get a picture with her phone, but unfortunately only my arm was in the picture (due to someone beside me). (That's the pink arm just behind the guy in black.) I think you can see from the determined angle of the arm and leg that I am really putting on the steam there!

I did my venting over crowds, time, pace, etc., then headed off to find water. I filled my bag with bottles of Talking Rain... very handy for my morning runs.

Before we left, I went in search of goodies. I remembered things like cookies from the past. For a big race like this, the race food is always strangely homespun. I scored a piece of spice cake with maple frosting... yum.

Instead of breakfast today, I wanted to go to Duke's for a cheeseburger (we had a coupon). So we made an interim stop at University Village to change my clothes (in the spacious Pottery Barn restroom) and pass a little time until it was late enough to go to lunch. My mother managed to pass the time buying some red and white checked plates from Pottery Barn. (Perfect for summer parties and barbecues!) I also tried out the Egg chair (similar to one sat in by Carrie in the Sex and the City movie). It's quite cozy when you sit back into the cushions and tuck your feet up! All the Pottery Barn summer furniture and dishes and such really put me in "summer at the shore" mood. That is, a Maine Coast, J. Crew, Topsiders and sailboats, clambakes and lobster boil summer at the shore mood. (Oh I like my own beach summers as well, I just crave a bit of preppy glamour on occasion.)

So by the time we were loaded down with 18 metal plates it was after 11:00 and late enough to head to Duke's. When we got there they were in fact open, and we were the first people to sit outside on the patio (others followed).

So, throwing caution to the winds, I ordered a bacon cheeseburger with sweet potato fries and my mother did the same. And it was lovely. I took the top bun off of mine but otherwise at the whole thing and every sweet potato fry. Replenishing protein and carbs, you know! So, maybe replenishment is not exactly necessary after a 5K. Still, there was no cinnamon roll, so that's something.

I had a massage appointment scheduled for 2:00, and I left my mother dozing on my couch while I went. Disappointingly, the therapist was sick and had left me a message canceling (I just hadn't checked my messages.) I did spend some time before I left the salon arranging some hair appointments with my stylist... a big change to come on July 5!

I'm sure the deprivation of my massage led to my bad behavior to come. But before that, I decided to swing through McDonald's to bring home cones for my mother and me. This turned out to be especially inspired when I saw that McDonald's was having a 50-cent cone promotion. Delicious, lowfat, and cheap--what a deal. Juggling the two cones in my left hand, I turned up the air conditioning and sped home as fast as I could.

I would have done a little better if I hadn't been inordinately delayed at a light on Broadway. As I raced into the house, the cones were starting to melt and drip. Luckily, both my mother and I are highly skilled at eating cones and were able to deal with the damage quite efficiently.

After my mother left I had every intention of taking my turn resting on the couch for a bit, then doing something productive. Unfortunately, on my way through the kitchen I had the rather bad idea of making a bit of trail mix with dried cherries, chocolate chips, and sunflower seeds.

Doesn't sound too bad, does it? Well, this is where my other amnesia problem kicks in.

They say that the most enjoyment in food is the first few bites, and after that it's not not so interesting. Well, I can tell you that I can enjoy every single bite. Then after I finish those bites, I am perfectly capable of enjoying the same thing again. And again. Like the past times had never happened. (Just like Drew.)

So after several rounds of chocolate laden trail mix, I dozed off on the couch and had a very pleasant nap until I woke up, hot (from the throw I'd covered with) and nauseous (from the excessive chocolate consumption). I had no choice but to continue to lie on the couch, watching TV (yes, 50 First Dates), until eventually the nausea passed.

I can say for certain that I have managed to consume many times over any calories I expended in running the 5K today. At least I have no interest in eating a big dinner tonight. Or, God knows, any chocolate. Maybe I do learn from my mistakes....

*While my watch does have a timing function, I haven't figured out how to use it on this particular watch. Especially as the watch also operate my iPod and goodness knows I wouldn't want to interfere with iPod operation by pressing buttons imprudently.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The extra mile (or two)

Tomorrow is the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure 5K in Seattle. The Race for the Cure was the first road race I ever did, so it has a special meaning for me. The first year I did it I raised more than $500 (not all of it contributed by myself). This year I'll admit I signed up at the last minute and didn't do any active fundraising, except for my donation and my mother's. I'm not crazy about asking people for money, and there's just so many times you can go to the well. But it is a very good cause and I'm happy that most of the participants are much more enthusiastic fundraisers than me!

As far as the running part of it, since it's "just" a 5K, I'm not going to get many miles in tomorrow, even with a decent warm-up. I'm not really good at making myself run more after finishing a race, so on race days I usually have to forgo a long weekend run.

Which is what I was resigned to this weekend as well. (Last week my mileage was about 26 miles, thanks to the Berry Run 5K on Saturday.)

But I did have some extra time this morning, as I often do on Fridays, so that gave me the chance to do at least a semi-longish run today, and keep the mileage somewhat up there. I even got up almost as early as I do on a typical running weekday, so I had lots of time to run.

Despite all my time, I didn't bother to measure out the distance on Map My Run. I just set out on a route I'd run once before, combining two typical medium-length routes into one, almost but not twice as long route. (But, as it turned out, closer than I thought!)

The first half of my run went smoothly and typically. The weather was pleasant for running, not sunny enough to use the sunglasses in my pocket, but light and bright and balmy (not hot).

It was when I turned down toward the waterfront that things got dicey. My gut started giving me warning pains, and I headed as directly as possible to the nearest restroom at the marina, which turned out to be a porta-potty as the actual restroom was closed for repairs! (There were other restrooms a bit further on, but I had no time to wait.)

Once I left the Marina Village there were no more easily accessible restrooms on my planned route, which was worrisome as I kept being struck with threatening mild stomach cramps. But every time I considered diverting to a gas station the pains receded so I continued on my way.

As I headed south on Marine View Drive for the last few miles, I reluctantly decided to modify my planned route to cut off a little bit and head back more directly. Not only did I have the shaky G.I. issues, my legs were tired and aching. I was really in "the wall" portion of the run. I thought that shortening it up just a little would give me a boost, but not be enough of a cop out to make me feel bad.

By this time I was coming into the last mile, mile and a half before reaching QFC and Starbucks. Keeping in mind that I am "in training" of sorts, and wanting to fire up my fast twitch muscles a bit (assuming that I have any), I decided to pick up the pace as if I were in a race working on a negative split.

I can't say that I sped up to any kind of race speed, but I definitely felt faster. As I was approaching a half mile to go, I started talking to myself to encourage me to keep it up. "This is like the end of a 15K." "You can stop in just a few minutes!" "Think of Deena Castor in Spirit of the Marathon!" (At the end of the Chicago Marathon, she was clearly almost spent, yet she was giving it all she had.)

I crossed the last street as if it were a finish line, and slowed to a walk in the QFC parking lot. Before going into Starbucks, I popped into the store to use the restroom and pick up some bananas. Then I ordered my drink at Starbucks and walked the rest of the way home, slowly.

Later, before I left for work, I popped onto the computer to see how far I'd gone. (Let me say that the length of time I was out had no bearing, due to the bathroom stops and my inherent slowness in a long run.) I figured the distance would be about 10 miles or so.

So I was a bit startled when the total distance turned out to be 12.3 miles (including the walk home, just under 12 without). (But I always include the walk home if it is short. My legs are still moving, aren't they?) No wonder I got so tired. That was almost a half marathon! (And long enough to make my 30 miles for the week, with tomorrow's 5K plus warm-up.)

I was achy enough to take some ibuprofen, and I would have loved nothing more to go back to bed for a while. But I only had enough time to eat breakfast and get ready for work. No extended lounging for me.

(If I hadn't gone running, I could have spent the morning in bed. But why would I want to do that? Bring on the pain, baby!)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Abs of steel (just kidding)

Yesterday my Pilates instructor complimented me on my toned muscles in my waist and sides. She said she could really see a difference in me, and asked if I had lost weight.

Are you kidding?

Now, I've been doing this class for almost two years (since it started in the fall of 2006), and while I do think I have made a lot of progress in core strength and muscle tone over the months, I'm not convince that there has been any dramatic recent change. (Could I possible attribute my spring weight gain to muscle gain instead? Yeah, that's the ticket!)

This Pilates class is really a boot camp type of Pilates, with endless ab work, and it's not for the faint of heart. (There is a devoted following, but newbies are often seen lying helplessly on the floor after a few rounds of leg raises, oblique twists, etc.) The instructor is constantly yelling at us to improve our form. (And she lies! "Last set" is never the last, it just morphs into another variation of torture.)

Lately she's incorporated a small ball into most of the exercises which just increases the difficulty and awkwardness.

So when she complimented me on my muscles I did wonder whether she might just be encouraging me so I don't drop out in despair. But I'm confident she was sincere, just not confident she was right! I sucked my gut in as she poked at me, hoping that she wouldn't feel the roll of flab above my midriff. (It's true that my lower abdomen is quite firm--god knows what's in there--but there is that persistent cinnamon roll that has no muscles in it whatsoever, therefore no hope of ever going away completely. Even if I could suck the fat out, the jiggly skin would undoubtedly remain. (Okay, too much information now.)

This has led me to dwell on the strange expansion of waist sizes among Americans (and Japanese, for that matter), specifically women.* Oh, I know we are fatter than we used to be. And of course it is historically typical that men get a big belly when they gain weight. But since when has it been common for women to have a waist size comparable to their hip size?

I look back to when I was a teenager. I was not a skinny teenager, but I always had a pretty flat stomach and smallish waist. I think it was about 26" when I was in my thin phases, and 28-30" when I gained weight. That was when I was "fat." Of course, I could never compare to my mother, who in her 20's was a Scarlett-O'Hara-like freak with a 22-inch waist. That was always the standard to measure against. (She did not maintain that 22-inch waist. But even when she was much heavier she still had an hourglass figure.)

Nowadays, even with Pilates and running and a low-carb diet, my waist is 30 inches on a good day (with the tape measure pulled tightly). I might be able to shed an inch or two if I lost enough weight, but I realize that with my age and everything my body has gone through in the last 40 years, I will never have a teenage slim waist again.

But that's me. What about the rest of the world? According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the average waist size for American women is 36.5. (The average waist size for men is 39 inches.) In Japan, where apparently it is common for women to have bigger waists than men, the government has set a health standard of 33.5 inches for men, and 35.4 inches for women. I have wondered if part of the reason for the increase may be a change in the way of measuring the waist; I have always measured at the smallest point (doesn't that make sense?), while some instructions say to measure at or below the belly button. This article, which has some very helpful information, says to measure at the narrowest part, which is "usually even with your navel." Hmmm, not for me.

Still, if the average waist measurement for women is 36.5", when you take all the non-pregnant Hollywood actresses into account, there are a lot of women who are bigger than 36.5". There are a lot of apples out there. And healthwise, these apples with belly fat (also called, more ominously, visceral fat) are at a higher risk for heart disease and other inflammation-related conditions.

How to decrease belly fat? Not surprisingly, cardio exercise and a diet low in high glycemic foods seem to help. From my own experience, eating protein, vegetables, low glycemic fruits and whole grains, and restricting sugars and simple carbs has been the most successful diet to lose weight and fat. Since my belly fat is more of an irritation than a major weight issue, I can't really speak to whether you lose belly fat first on a low carb diet, as South Beach proponents claim.

I also suspect (and have found some literature supporting this) that the vast consumption of high fructose corn syrup, both in soft drinks and foods of all kinds, is promoting not only weight gain but waist gain. Fructose appears to make cells resistant to insulin, and prevents the body from feeling full, in the way that other carbohydrates do.

While cardio exercise is important in shedding fat, ab exercises like crunches will not, on their own, get rid of belly flab. So despite all my "good work" in Pilates, I still need to watch what I eat and keep up the running if I want to decrease that cinnamon roll!

*I should say at this point that I have absolutely no training or qualifications to express these opinions. These are, in fact, my opinions, supported by various internet and magazine articles I have read from time to time. My only credentials are my own experiences with fat, weight loss, and exercise (all of which I must say are extensive).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Walking vs. driving vs. walking...

I am eating lunch right now, which is why I have time for another quick post. (CYA people, always CYA. Although I work for myself, so I'm really just C-ing my A from myself.)

I run 30 miles a week. I work out at the Y several additional hours per week on top of that. But I admit that outside of those planned activities I lead a pretty sedentary life. I spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer, a lot of time sitting in a courtroom. I try to vary that by standing in the courtroom, and walking back and forth a few feet between courtrooms, and I always take the stairs when I have occasion to go the second floor (which doesn't even necessarily happen daily), but none of this is very laborious.

And I drive places. A lot. Now granted, my house, office, court, favored grocery store, Starbucks, and the YMCA are all within a two mile radius (meaning that any one of those locations is less than two miles from my house), so as far as consuming gasoline I am pretty good.

Since I live in town I try to walk instead of drive as much as possible (when I think of it). I do some of my grocery stops on my way home from a run. In the summer I like to walk to the Y, when time allows. "Time allowing" is a always a big thing. In order to walk somewhere I have to allow a half hour for a trip that I might do in a few minutes with the car.

This spring I decided to try to walk to work twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays. This is carefully planned to coincide with mornings when I have a little more time to spare before work (because they're non-running days), and I don't have the early Pilates class after work. Also, I can avoid carrying large stacks of files to and from my office a couple times a week, but I need the car to transport stuff sometimes.

The walk to work plan has been pretty successful; I did it for two weeks in a row earlier on. Then I was in St. Louis for a week; I don't remember what happened the week after I returned; and last week I know it rained constantly all week, and I just didn't want to walk in the rain.

So that brings us to today. And I did successfully make the walk to work this morning. But I had a vehicle parked in the court lot that I left behind yesterday when I picked up my car after getting the window fixed (broken by a car prowler on Friday), so once again, here I am at work with a car on a walk day.

This is where bad habits come in. Even with a car in the lot, there was nothing preventing me from walking to Starbucks to get a latte this morning as I would if I had no car. But since I had the car, I drove. (Although I did use the non-walking time saved to get some extra work done, and I did load up a stack of files to transport to my office.)

Maybe if the weather had been a little nicer I would have ditched the car and walked anyway, but it's hard to get into the mindset of allowing enough time to walk places instead of drive, when you have the option of driving. Or, alternatively, it's hard to get out of the mindset of just jumping into the car to run an errand.

When I am in London I have no car and I walk everywhere. Even when I take a bus or the underground I walk many blocks to get to and from the various stops. It's second nature. In a city like London, driving (if I even had a car) would be far more troublesome (what with the traffic, crazy streets, lack of parking, etc.).

I am thinking of buying a new bike so I can ride some of the places I might otherwise drive. I am intrigued by this bike that has an extra-large rack for carrying packages. Of course, if I rode it to work,* while I might solve the problem of transporting files, I would have a number of different problems... what to do about helmet hair; whether my bike would get stolen from court, office, stores, the Y; what to wear to accommodate both riding and working (so as not to have to change my clothes too often). I'm afraid bicycle wear might be outside even my interpretation of "business casual."

Summer is a great time to try some of these alternative ways of being active, like walking or biking to work. Because of the long days, it's daylight both to and from work. Eventually, we hope, the weather will be warm and dry. Even today, although it's not warm at least it is dry, so far.

I'm actually thinking (this is a secret), that because some of my scheduled things for this afternoon have been canceled, that I might drive the car home and walk back to work, since I would then make the into a full walking day, to and from work. Especially a good idea because I'm going out to dinner tonight and not going to the Y. (My lazy ass is suggesting maybe I should just stay and work. My lazy brain is saying go walk!)

*Of course I realize that many people bicycle many miles to work every day. Relatively speaking, my dilemma over whether to ride a mile and a half to work may seem trivial. But let me assure you that it takes as much work to prepare for a one mile bike ride to work as a fifteen-mile ride to work.

Race time amended

I just looked at the website for the Dog Island Run (June 7) and saw that they posted my finish time as 53:31 (as opposed to the 53:52 I previously reported). That makes my average pace 8:38 per mile; it also means I had a faster time than the chip time from the Hi-5 run on June 8 (which was 53:35, 8:39 pace). I'm okay with that! Also, according to the results list, I was only 23 seconds behind the really speedy woman with the stroller!

(Overall I was #16 out of 44 women; #4 in my age division; and overall #42 of 91 participants--that last number being my own calculation based on the finishers' list.) (In the Hi-5 run I was first in my age division, #8 out of 28 females, and #31 out of 51 participants.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

"No cake" amendment

So I'm amending the "no cake in June" policy. Not relating to the cake. I'm amending to add a few more "C" foods to the ban list. That would be no cake, cookies, candy, crust (as in pie crust), or Cool Whip. Or (sigh) cinnamon rolls. (Just through the end of the month, okay?)

You might notice that I did not include chocolate. Obviously chocolate is a C food and it also falls within the "candy" category. However I am not precluding chocolate if it is consumed in a medicinal fashion. That means by way of a chocolate calcium or the occasional small piece of chocolate to keep my blood pressure down. (Of course, I don't have a blood pressure problem, never had, but why take the risk? Actually this exception is more for my mother than me, as she does need to work on her blood pressure.)

The Cool Whip has been added to the list as my consumption of Cool Whip Free has (in the last few days) escalated to being comparable to ice cream. News flash: Cool Whip Free is not "free" if you eat the whole carton. Or even half a carton. Not that I would ever do that. I'm just saying. (The exception to this is that I will allow Cool Whip Free if it is to go on top of rhubarb sauce. Somehow the tartness of rhubarb, even when sweetened with Splenda--which is the only possible way to eat it--prevents me from eating too much at one time. A little goes a long way. But not spooned directly from carton to mouth. I mean the Cool Whip.)

I came to this decision when I looked at a backside picture of me from one of my recent races and I did not like what I saw! Altogether too broad and bulbous, if you know what I mean!

Plus, I do want to get some weight off before the Anacortes Half Marathon on July 26. Not only do I want to do well for the usual reasons, I also have an additional incentive to finish near or even below two hours. I am (planning on) catching an 11:50 San Juan ferry and the earlier I finish, the more time there will be to get to the ferry (about 5 miles from the race start/finish). (The Half Marathon starts at 9 a.m.) I'm going to a wedding and if I don't get that ferry, I will have to wait for a later one which will not get me to the island in time for the wedding! (Luckily I'm just a guest, not a participant, so even if I am late to the ceremony it won't be the end of the world. I'll get there in plenty of time for the cake!) (Because it will be July and July is not No Cake Month!)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Crazy feet

In my race yesterday I saw a woman wearing these shoes. Once the race started and I became preoccupied with my own running, I forgot about it and never found out later how she did, or even saw her again.

I have noticed some curious shoe styles in various races, but this one is the tops. I did a google search for "springy running shoes" and found out they're called Z-coil (I'm not sure if there are any other competing brands), and actually they were invented by a guy in the eighties to help with foot pain.

I could go on about their history and so forth, but I prefer to focus on the wackiness of it all. I think most people (especially women) are only just willing to wear "sensible" shoes to deal with foot problems (e.g. plantar fascitis, tendonitis, etc.). It must take a special kind of personality to choose to wear shoes that make you look (let's face it) like a freak. I think with running shoes most of us want to find the best, fastest, most comfortable shoes, but we also want them to kind of look like everyone else's running shoes. Just a little cooler and prettier, if possible.

Spira has a type of running shoe with springs inside the sole. I understand from some cursory and un-thorough internet research that these shoes may have been banned from races by the USATF. Apparently that kind of springy sole may help runners race faster (maybe I need a pair). But at least the technology is hidden. Don't know if the visible springs work the same way; to me it seems like they'd be rather awkward.

It occurs to me that I could springboard (haha) this into a real discussion about what the difference is between "allowable" shoe technology and technology which is deemed an unfair advantage. After all, the evolution of running shoes and athletic shoes in general is full of various developments intended to improve performance. Nike Air? Nike Shox? Where should the line be drawn (other than jet-packs, etc.)?

But, I'm tired and losing momentum (it's now 11:05 p.m. even though I first started this early in the afternoon). And really, all I wanted to say was "man, those are some wild and crazy shoes!"

Saturday, June 14, 2008

It's the berries! (Berry Run 5K)

Strawberry season has not quite sprung yet this year (long, cold, wintery spring is probably to blame), but the Marysville Strawberry Festival is rolling on anyway, starting with the Berry Run 5K this morning. (Doesn't that sound like a Chamber of Commerce blurb?)

Although there were no promises of strawberry shortcake (something that should be changed in future), I thought that the Berry Run sounded like a fun and easy way to start a Saturday morning. Plus I grew up in Marysville so it's kind of like going home. Except that I never ran a single race during all the years I lived there!

I have to say that I did not start this morning in the best of moods. Last night I had a strangely grumpy stomach which made me fear for today's race. This morning my stomach felt fine, but I wasn't so crazy about getting up early. Perhaps it was a "hangover" from the events of Friday the 13th. Let's review. I locked myself out of my house while running (10 miles, though!) and had to have my mom come let me in. Later, when I finally waltzed into work, my car got broken into while sitting on the street outside my office. Front passenger side window broken out and a bag containing magazines and my YMCA card stolen (but ha! at least the thieves will be disappointed at the lack of valuables). I have little hope that they will be apprehended (perhaps trying to steal my identity and get into the Y?) but maybe my card will be found discarded somewhere. (Also in the bag--a copy of O.K. magazine containing pictures of about 30 best shirtless male bods--lost! Darn it all!) By the time I contacted my insurance company and dropped the car off to be fixed, I was an hour late to court. Perhaps the stress contributed to my upset stomach later. Or maybe it was the three multiple shot lattes that I drank while dealing with the events of the day (one waiting to get into the house, one after the car prowl, and one, decaf, in the evening, for no particular reason).

Oh yes, and Tim Russert died yesterday. I spent the evening watching television coverage of his life and death. I can't even express how shocking and distressing this news was. Since at least the 2000 presidential election, I feel like he has been a significant part of our lives. How will this election year go on?

This morning I finally got up around 6:30 and threw on my clothes. My parents were picking me up at 7:00. I toasted an English muffin and spread it with chocolate peanut butter (a wonderful invention) and wrapped it in a paper towel to bring along. I ended up sharing it with my mother because I really didn't have an appetite. I even only drank a little bit of my latte (though I finished it later in the day).

The race started at the Smokey Point Plant Farm. Under most circumstance this would be a intriguing place for a race. Think of the shopping opportunities afterward! But today it was still cold and windy and I didn't have a lot of gardening motivation going on.

The organization was a little amateurish. For a small race, without a whole lot of participants, I had to stand in line quite a while to get my race number (even though I was pre-registered). And although I had originally planned a long warmup, both to get the mileage and to actually do a good warming up, I really only had time to jog around for a mile or so. (I'm just calling it .9 miles so I can make today a round 4 miles.)

Shortly before 8:30, we gathered for the start. There was no start banner, but apparently there was a starting line. The race director was a coach from a local school, and he actually had a starting gun which he shot off.

Last night I did take the time to put together a "New 5K Run List," so I pressed start on the ipod and took off. As usual, I couldn't tell if I was running well or poorly in beginning, as the faster runners whizzed past me. I was pretty sure there was still a crowd behind me too.

It was, at least, a completely flat route. It was also simple. We went down the road in one direction to the dead end, turned around and went the other direction to Twin Lakes Park; turned around again and came back, taking an out and back diversion down a side road, then back into the nursery, around the outside and finished in the greenhouse area.

In the first mile or so I was running steady with a young boy (I mean young). Then I left him behind. I passed a couple of women, and maybe a man or two, and eventually got passed myself by another man or two. I spent another period of time running alongside a young girl, who I was also able to pull ahead of eventually. (There were a lot of youngsters in this race, and other than these two, most of them were substantially ahead of me the whole time.)

My major competitor, I realized in the last mile, was another woman who was also in my age group (she had just turned 40 recently). While I was ahead of her for the first couple miles (and didn't even know she was behind me), somewhere around mile 2 she pulled ahead of me at a steady pace. From then on, catching up to her, and possibly passing her, became my primary goal. As hard as I tried (and I would say I tried moderately hard), I could not close the distance enough to pass her.

I did put on a nice kick at the end and crossed the finish line in good form. Unfortunately, my mother who was on the sidelines with the camera, missed my finishing shot when another runner (or someone on the side) blocked the camera view. (This required a later re-staging of the finish and we eventually, after a couple of takes, got a good shot.)

There was no finish clock and after I crossed the line I asked the girl with the stopwatch what my time was. She said 25:---- and I can't remember the seconds. I can't believe that my brain was such a sieve that it let the time escape! (I have an idea what it was though, and I'll explain in a bit.)

After the race I spent a few minutes talking to the woman who squeezed me out. This was her first 5K but she has been training to do a mini-triathlon this summer. I assured her that her time (of around 25 minutes) was very good. She was red, hot, and exhausted, but quite exhilarated from the race.

It was sometime after that that I forgot my time. All I wanted, at that point, was to get my final time and see if I won an age group ribbon (no anticipation, I didn't).

Unfortunately, it took a long time for them to tabulate the results. While waiting I did manage to collect a free tomato plant (and one each for my parents, because they said that everyone got a plant). (All will be planted in my garden, however.)

As I'm waiting, I gathered that there were a lot of track team participants here. When I eventually heard the race times of some of the young kids, I was transported back to high school and it was not a good feeling. This is where you feel like a loser if you run slower than a six to seven minute mile. This was somewhat reinforced when the male 40-49 winner was someone I went to school with (he was older than me though), and his wife and two daughters all won top prizes in their divisions as well.

So when they finally got to the women's awards, the gal who finished ahead of me got third in our age group. Before I left I went to look at the list of times to finalize my own time. This is where I decided they'd screwed up. The woman ahead of me had a time of 25:11. Okay. But then they had me at 25:12. I would like to believe that was my time, but I'm quite positive that I was more than one second behind her at the finish! There was nobody just ahead of me when I crossed the finish line. I'm thinking that it's more likely that they clicked the stopwatch an extra time after her. The next time on the list, 25:28, sounded like it might be right for me. If only I could remember what I heard right after the finish!

So I'm reluctantly claiming a time of 25:28. That would be an average pace of 8:13 per mile. It's frustrating not to know for sure. On the one hand, I am associated with a faster time that I can't bring myself to accept. On the other hand, if the faster time is not right, how do I know that this middling time is right either? Maybe I was 25:40 (the next one on the list)? I can console myself with the thought that since this wasn't chip timed, my "actual" time was probably a few seconds faster in either case. (I wasn't too far back in the start.) Either way it was a PR (as long as it wasn't 25:40, that is).

I know one thing for sure; it's obvious what my 5K goal must be. Break 25 minutes. Here's to the future! And future runs!

(Race picture to come in future.)

You people are so clever

Who needs to write their own blog post when there are so many other funny and entertaining ones to read? I keep a list at right of the blogs I like, and amazingly I am able to check most of them regularly for new posts. (I know this raises some major red flags about whether I have any time to work (some), clean house (little), garden (none, but changing now that summer's here).)

Today I am feeling especially amused by a couple of old posts about marathon signs (you know, those things held up on the side of the road by non-runners). Nitmos wrote about some hypothetical signs he might make, but Tall Girl Running made real posters and has pictures to prove it! Hilarious!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Thank God I'm not a celebrity

Yesterday I wore a really cute dress to work. I mean, I was adorable. I wish I had a picture to show how cute I was. (I'm going somewhere with this, I promise.) The dress was a kind of wild sixties-style print, in bright yellow, black, grey and white, with a deep scoop neck (under which I wore a black turtleneck), and a gathered waist just below the bustline, sort of Empire style or, now that I think about it, Jane Austen-like. Just picture those dresses knee-length, in wilder prints, with different sleeves, on me. Okay, I also wore black tights and darling (if rather Minnie Mouse-like) yellow,white, and black patent leather shoes.

I know I looked nice (or at least my outfit was nice), because lots of people complimented me. In fact, in the Safeway parking lot a lady who I didn't know came by and said to me, "You look just darling!"

Obviously I was flattered. But then I also wondered—I had been talking on my cell phone about someone who was pregnant, and did she hear me and think it was I who was pregnant? Because this was also a dress I could lend to my friend to wear as her pregnancy developed. And although the dress flows very nicely on me, every once in a while it clings briefly to the bulge above my waist-line that I have begun to call my "cinnamon roll."

That is when I am very thankful that there are no paparazzi following me with cameras. Because if there were, I am certain that we would soon see a blurb in Us magazine (or In Touch or Life & Style or Star or O.K.), asking if this was a "baby bulge." No matter how much I run, and all the Pilates I do (well, two hard classes a week), I will never, ever have a completely flat stomach. I have to laugh when the most minute swell of the belly prompts pregnancy speculation. (I guess if they predict it often enough, eventually it will be true—like Angelina Jolie or Nicole Kidman. But not for me!)

What's more, a full stomach (after an unusually hearty meal) makes that obnoxious roll even more apparent, as it flops alarmingly above the waistband of my pants or skirt (this is why I like dresses so much). Sometimes I have been known to pull my pants up high over the roll, old man-style, in attempts to tame it (this works with stretchy yoga and running pants, not so much with jeans). Stretchy undergarments like Spanx sometimes help but sometimes just turn the soft floppy skin into a hard compressed ridge.

Well, now I've completely depressed myself and pretty much forgot where I was going with this. I guess I have two points. One is, unless you're a Hollywood star or 18 years old or truly genetically blessed, your body is going to be flawed no matter how much you work on taking care of it. (That's the depressing view.) The more optimistic view of this is that even without a perfect Hollywood body, you can be strong and fit and healthy and low in body-fat (16%, my scale says), and look really good most of the time as long as you dress in a flattering style. (See What Not to Wear.) The second point (or third, depending on how you look at it) is, unless you are a Hollywood star, most people aren't going to be looking for your belly flab. They're going to be thinking how cute you are in your stylish dress, or how strong you are running those 10K's and powering through hundreds of Pilates roll-ups and leg raises.

(That is, unless you keep eating those cinnamon rolls and cookies at work and bulge right out of your cute clothes.)

The one exception to "I'm not a celebrity" is this. That's Nicole Kidman, dressed as me, running some time after announcing she was pregnant (this was months ago). Good try, Nicole, the outfit is perfect; you just need to work a little harder on the fleshy (I mean muscular) legs. The hint of belly is a good start; maybe by the time you're six months along you can really replicate my jiggly midsection!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


In my world (juvenile crime) tagging has an entirely different meaning. But in the internet world, Laura has tagged everyone on her blog list, so I'll take this opportunity to do a little navel gazing and respond to one of the tags. (Like most people who have the nerve to write a blog about their lives, I am always eager to talk about myself!)

So here are the questions.

1. How would you describe your running 10 years ago?

This is pretty easy. Ten years ago (when I was 32 years old), I did not run at all. In fact, it had been another ten years since I had stopped running after college. By this time I was a few years out of law school and since law school I had gained quite a bit of weight. I would not say I was completely sedentary; I would go through periods when I walked regularly for exercise (although that would fall off when the weather got bad), and whenever I was in London or travelling I walked extensively. However, I definitely did not run and had anyone asked, I would have firmly said that my running days were behind me.

2. What is your best and worst run/race experience?

My best was probably the 2007 Whidbey Island Half Marathon. This was my first half marathon and is still my PR (1:54:30). Somehow everything came together perfectly for me that day; I still cannot believe that I ran it at a pace that is still a typical 10K pace for me. The weather was perfect, not too hot, and not cold, wet, or windy; the hills didn't faze me; and I had a crowd of cheerleaders at the end (my parents, Jennifer & Sammy, Corey & her husband Neil). Also, the race ended in Coupeville, instead of boring Oak Harbor like it does now!

The worst—nothing extreme, but I have one race and one run that might fit that category. The race was a 10K associated with the 2007 Olympia Halloween Marathon (there is a running group in Olympia that stages a marathon, half, 10-mile, 10K & 5K around every possible holiday). It happened to be a very rainy day, and the race started in a dark and gloomy state park. Then most of the course was out and back alongside a busy road and highway. Just boring, basically. Also, the finish line was not in the same spot as the start, you had to turn into the picnic area, and then turn again to actually cross the line; I spent several precious moments trying to figure out where to go. Finally, I had the worst time ever in a 10K, over 57 minutes I believe. On the good side, we then went to the Country Cousin restaurant in Centralia and ate a huge, frosting laden cinnamon roll.

The bad run occurred a couple days after the Whidbey Half. Apparently I wasn't fully recovered, and halfway into my run I developed horrible intestinal problems. I actually had to pound on the door of a friend's house to use the bathroom. Then I walked home—the only time I have ever cut a run short. (Too much information? Good thing nobody reads this.)

3. What is the best or worst piece of advice you've been given about running?

Best? Hmm, let me think. The problem is that I know so few people who actually run (and no one more than me) that I rarely get any advice. I am taking to heart my friend's advice to (in future) sign up for a faster group in the Beat the Bridge run. Nobody will know the difference and it gives you a few extra minutes to get to the bridge. (This year I signed up for the slower group and ran with the faster group, so it came out the same in the end.)

The worst is easy. Although actually it's not advice, it's more like bad policy. This dates back to my first experiences with organized running, in middle school and junior high way back in the seventies. My first experience was running "the mile" in 6th grade (and beyond). Before then I had only run in play. My first mile was disastrous, probably about 12 minutes. Later with some practice I went to 10 minutes, and maybe 9 minutes. None of this sounds really horrible now. But back then, between the P.E. teachers and the scrawny kids who were naturally fast, there was a general attitude that anything slower than an 8 minute mile was bad, and really only less than 7 minutes was good. (This is the same standard, by the way, that still divides the starting groups in the Beat the Bridge and Jingle Bell runs.) Then this was coupled with these horrible graded physical fitness tests that we had to do (different from the President's Physical Fitness Test they have now), where I am quite sure that anything over 10 minutes in a miles was an F grade. (There were also things like dips and arm hang that I just could not do.) So you can imagine how traumatic it would be for someone who was used to getting straight A's to fail on a regular basis! Somewhat related to this, with all the focus on running "the mile," I never got a taste of the beauty of long distance running. Even when I went through jogging phases, I never did more than three miles at a time. Now I know that I don't even hit my stride till after at least three miles!

But to illustrate the difference between my past and the present, here are the standards for youth to qualify for the Presidential Health Fitness Award:

As you can see, the standards are much more forgiving than in my day! I could easily meet and beat any of the standards for a 17-year-old girl, except I still don't know if I could do even one pull-up. Actually, I'm not sure about the sit and reach stuff—I'm a lot less flexible now that I used to be. (Ironically, flexibility was one thing I was good at in my youth!)

4. Why do you run?

I run because walking became too slow. I run to stay thin (or a close facsimile thereof). I run because it gives me an excuse for my big calves. I run because it is a socially accepted reason to wear stretchy clothes. I run for the cinnamon rolls!

5. Tell us something surprising about yourself that not many people would know.

Like what? My weight? (Actually I already alluded to that in an earlier post. And I'm sticking to that number, despite recent, ahem, fluctuations.)

Honestly, there is very little I can think to say about myself that would be surprising. I took piano lessons for 10 years (big wow), was a National Merit Scholar in high school (could've guessed that), highlight my hair to keep it blonde (obvious from the roots), and currently have a messy house (which I've admitted numerous times, plus anyone who sees my stacks of files at work could predict that immediately). Anything else I could think of, I would not care to write about in a blog which is theoretically accessible to millions, although undoubtedly read by few.

So there I am, a few things about me. I guess I'll finish with another tag question from Laura's blog...

Write your own six-word memoir...

"I will think about that tomorrow." (or a variation) "After all, tomorrow is another day."

...and illustrate with a picture.
(Which does remind me of another answer to #5 above—I have read Gone With the Wind at least eight times, all when I was a teenager and capable of reading books over, and over, and over; and at one time was obsessed with the book and movie.)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Two great races, two great days

I didn't want to mention on Friday my daring plan to run two 10Ks over the weekend, for fear that I wouldn't actually do both of them. The first, the Dog Island Run on Guemes Island, was one that I preregistered for and definitely was going to do. The second, called the Lynnwood Hi-5 10K (and 5K) at the Alderwood Mall (yes! at the mall), I heard about last week and was pretty sure I would do, but I didn't preregister and so I had a potential out, if I wanted it. (When I first heard about this 10K at the mall, I thought no way! Running at the mall? That's crazy! But the idea began to grow on me... there's a certain appeal to combining two of my great obsessions, running and shopping, by beginning a 10K at the home of both Macy's and Nordstrom's.)

Dog Island Run

Even though the race did not start until 10:45 a.m., the rather remote location required an early start. And since I like to get to a race plenty early, this meant a very early departure. I left my house at 6:30 to pick up my mother at about 6:45.

After a stop at a north Marysville Starbucks, we headed toward Anacortes. The plan was to catch the 9:05 Guemes ferry, but I wanted to get to the ferry between 8 and 8:15. Which we did.
(I interrupt this writing to mention that I am sitting at the computer with a cat on my lap, which is the only way I can prevent said cat from either (1) walking on the computer keyboard and posting all kind of inappropriate comments on my blog, or (2) turning my legs, chest, and stomach into a pincushion [it's no substitute for acupuncture]).

Even though I've been in Anacortes many, many times (and my grandmother had a restaurant there when my mother was in college, which was long before I was born, of course), neither I nor my mother have ever been to Guemes Island. Guemes is technically one of the San Juan Islands, but it's just off of Anacortes, and is actually in Skagit rather than San Juan County. Guemes has full-time residents, vacation homers, and and old-fashioned resort. The ferry ride takes about 5 minutes, costs $3 round-trip to walk on ($1.50 for seniors), and has a narrow passenger cabin alongside the car deck.

We parked in the first lot we came to, which was the 72-hour lot (later figuring out that we could have parked much closer in the 24-hour lot), and I walked over to the terminal (a small building on the ferry dock which does, however, have indoor restrooms), bought our tickets, then went back to the car to collect my mother.

While we were waiting to get on the ferry I listened to two ladies who were race "officials" describing the course to someone. I think this is what I heard... "You start out going downhill for a couple of miles. Then it does get hilly for a couple of miles. Then the rest is flat." (We'll come back to that later.)

Although we had some rain on the way up to Anacortes, by now the sky was just lightly cloudy, with some intimations of the sun breaking through. Eventually. While it might not be ideal ferry-riding, island visiting weather, it was pretty perfect running weather.

Once we disembarked on the island, there was a shuttle bus waiting to transport us to the park where the race began. I'd already planned to use that stretch as a warm-up run. The brochure said it was 1.5 miles. Once I confirmed with the bus driver that the park was straight up the road, no turns, I set out at an easy jog.

I definitely needed this warmup before setting out on any kind of race. My body was not ready to run. But as I worked my way up the road, I felt my legs loosening up and any soreness I had abated. I spotted the "Start" banner, which was right at the park, much more quickly than I anticipated. I'm not sure that the distance was really a full mile and a half... I'm calling it 1.3 miles for purposes of my mileage log (this is all going to work out to round numbers, you see.)

There was a number of people already at the park (the ones who'd been on my ferry), but I knew the later ferries would bring many more. There was another ferry at 9:45, which would probably bring the bulk of the runners, and one at 10:15, which would carry the daring last-minute arrivals.

(My mother is in the middle of this picture, in profile in a teal green coat.)

After picking up my race number and shirt (designed by a local artist), I made my first porta-potty visit (no line). Then I sat at a picnic table with my mother and read a magazine for a while. At a little before 10 I decided it was time to head out on my real warmup run (since the trip from the ferry had been so early). I figured about 20-25 minutes would be good—that would give me about two miles.

After visiting the porta-potty (still no line), I headed out down a road by the park, in the opposite direction of the race course. I trotted along for a while, until I came to the top of a big hill. I knew if I went down this hill I'd have to come back up (obviously). Oh well, it was too soon to turn back—so down I went. Then up the other side (which was less steep). I picked a road marker at the top of that incline as my turnaround spot. Then it was back down... and up, up, up. (A preview for the race to come.) After I was back up the hill and onto the flat, I decided to do a couple strides, picking a mailbox a ways down the road and running fast(er) to that point, slowing down again, then repeating with another mailbox. By that time I was back to the park and I rounded the corner and immediately got in line for one last porta-potty stop. Yes, now there was a line, but only about six people ahead of me.

I was lured out of line by a race official who told us there was another porta-potty on the other side of the park, but when I got over there the line was even longer! And further away from the start line. I decided to return, and got back in line, still with six people ahead of me, although of course a different six by this point.

As we were standing in line (a captive audience) an older lady came by gathering signatures for the Death with Dignity initiative. The three people in front of me engaged in quite a lengthy and emotional discussion over the pros and cons of the initiative... I'm not sure whether or not they signed. When she came to me, I did not want to rehash it all, and simply said "I'll sign." The woman behind me said "I'll sign too." (I thought about injecting a little humor by saying that my parents were getting older, I needed to have some options; but I didn't want to offend anyone. Let me add, I did make that joke to my mother, and she was not offended.)

After my one-minute turn in the potty (I had said to the woman behind me that there was enough time for us each to get one minute), it was just about time for the race to start so I headed over to the starting area. No timing chips, but I just stationed myself mid-pack (it was a small pack) and felt okay about that.

The guy with the megaphone reiterated that the first part of the race was downhill, then warned us of a couple miles of gravel due to unplanned roadwork. Then the gun (or horn, or whatever) went off, and so did we!
(The starting lineup. I can be seen toward the lefthand side, between the red arm and the bare arm.)

I knew that with a long downhill stretch to begin, I needed to take advantage of it to make up for the slower hills to come. Luckily with the warmup in me, I was able to begin at a good steady clip. I quickly settled into what felt like a good reasonable pace.

The downhills were great—all races should start this way. My thought was, if I could get a good pace in the beginning, perhaps I could hang onto it on the flats and maybe even some of the hills. And even when we started up some hills, I felt like I was able to keep most of my speed.

As we moved into the gravel road, I drew abreast of a guy who I had heard mention he was from Uruguay (though living in Canada now). I ran pretty much alongside him for quite a ways. I was kind of worried about him, though, because I could hear him breathing and it sounded awfully loud and gaspy. As we came out of the gravel (and the road seemed to flatten out), he asked me whether there were any more hills. I told him I didn't know. (I hoped not, and based on what I had heard before the race, this seemed like a reasonable hope.) I pulled ahead of him at that point and never saw him for the rest of the run.

In the distance ahead of me I saw a young woman running with a baby stroller. I was so amazed at her ability to run like that pushing a load. I had heard her tell someone before the race started that she would have to walk up the hills. So even with some walking time, she was averaging a pretty speedy pace. (She was, also, the wife of the guy ahead of me at the potty, who had said that whichever one of them did not have the stroller would have to "race." His wife had picked the stroller, and he was racing.)
(I am in the middle of this strip of pictures. The Dog Island website posted all the race photos, and I cropped it down to this. It's the first time I have ever gotten free, good pictures off a race site without having to pay the photographer an exhorbitant fee! Props to the Dog Island organizers! Note, by the way, that there are two, two people with strollers in front of me!)

I really felt good about my pace. I really wished I had a Garmin so that I could eventually find out what my pace had been! Doing math with my watch is only moderately effective. I planned, as usual, to pick up the pace at mile 5 for the last 1.2 miles.

Then, out of the blue, at about 4.5 miles, there it was. Another hill, longer and I'm pretty sure steeper than any of our previously hills. I had not been warned of this! (I learned afterwards that it is nicknamed "Heartbreak Hill.")

I started up as best I could. This time I felt myself slowing. I couldn't help it. I just slogged my way up the hill, short choppy steps, determined not to walk. I passed a few people on my way up. I even saw myself gaining on the woman with the stroller. When I was almost at the top I reached the 5-mile marker. As I passed a man we dubbed "Norm Colon" (because of his resemblance to a former neighbor, albeit in younger days), I made a joke about the irony of reaching mile 5 at the top of this hill. He didn't seem amused. Actually he probably didn't even understand what I meant. What I meant was the irony of being beat down by this hill just at the point where you would normally start to make a break for the finish line!

Because that wasn't happening, not yet anyway. The hill had been so debilitating that I struggled to regain my pace even when I was back on the level. Meanwhile, the woman with the stroller pulled ahead again, but no one came from behind to pass me.

Finally I got back into some kind of good pace (pretty darn close to mile 6, though), and then soon I saw the finish line in the distance. Blessedly, the road was now sloping downward, and I was able to put a push on to "sprint" toward the finish. (The quotation marks are intentional, believe me.)

I saw 53 on the clock and that gave me a finish line goal—sub-54. (It's good to have goals, even if they are small and created at the last minute.) I kept my eye on the clock as I pounded across the finish line and noted my time—53:52. (The finish board showed me at 53:31, but I told them that was wrong—they had apparently missed someone else's tag. I'd love to claim 53:31, but I can't.)

I know that hill at the end, and my slow recovery afterward, slowed my average pace immensely. I would love to know what I was running beforehand—not that it would change the overall finish time. And I must keep in mind, the uphills were what made the downhills possible, and it was the downhills that made me feel so fast throughout the rest of the race. Still, I really need to get a Garmin so I can get a better idea of what I'm doing.

After I recovered for a moment, I found my mother and headed back to the picnic area to grab some water and food (orange wedges). I also spent a few minutes chatting with the artist who had designed all the shirts. This year's is nice, but there are some really cute ones from the past. I would have bought one, except I cannot bring myself to get a shirt from a race I didn't run. Plus I have so many shirts, just with the ones I do run!

Then it was just a wait for the awards (I didn't win one) and door prizes (didn't win one of those either). The artist told me that they would finish in time for everyone to get the 1:00 ferry, and she was right. The overall winner of the 10K turned out to be the husband of the woman with the stroller. Later I saw them with their daughter (the stroller passenger), and she's no baby! She was at least three, maybe four years old, and must have been a good solid weight to push. (The woman told me that, except for uphills, it's no harder with the stroller than without, but I don't believe her. I'll bet without that stroller she would have been in the top finishers.)

The minute they said "this is the last door prize" there was a surge for the bus, and my mother was one of the first on. (So I got the seat by her.) It's not like we wouldn't get a ride, though; they were going to go back and forth until everyone made it to the ferry.

Although the ferry was supposed to land about 1:05, it actually came in some 15 minutes early because there was an aid car on board. (Interesting down side to living on a small island—delayed emergency services.) A lot of the passengers stayed on deck to watch the view, but I chose the cabin again. Although the sun was finally out, there was still a cold wind and I was a little chilled.

Back in Anacortes we headed directly to the Calico Cupboard for lunch—fish tacos and an apple cinnamon roll. Yum yum yum. Before we left, I changed my clothes so I would not be wearing running clothes for the rest of the afternoon.

Since we were up in Skagit County, it seemed like a good idea to stop at Christianson's Nursery to look at plants for my garden. A bit of background here... I have to admit that since my obsession with running has increased (and consumed more and more time), my obsession with my garden (and time to work in it) has decreased. This summer I would like to correct that imbalance, not by cutting back on running, but by finding more time to spend in the garden. Christianson's is my favorite nursery, for the ambience as much as the plants, and although I buy plants in many other places as well (Skagit Valley Gardens, Molbak's, Lowe's), I love to wander through Christianson's for inspiration.

And one of the things I have always been able to buy at Christianson's is... sweet peas! My favorite flower. In the years when I haven't gotten around to putting seeds in the ground in a timely fashion (too often, lately), I have relied on Christianson's for pots of started sweet peas. So, once again, I loaded up a cart with 4-inch pots of tall-growing sweet peas, plus a few knee-high type to spill out of a hanging basket, and three tom thumb (4-6") type to plant in another basket. (The picture shows my sweet peas from 2004... the year before I began running.) To avoid creating a dead plant graveyard in my potting shed, I stuck to the sweet peas for now (except for some trailing lobelia to add to the hanging basket). I can buy more stuff later. (Actually, I'm waiting for the 4th of July sales to stock up on annuals for patio pots. It's been too cold and wet this spring to really get going on annuals anyway.... I am confident that the later summer will be nicer!)

On the way home we stopped at Hagen's for a few groceries, and the weekend round of sample tables. (QFC has the best samples in the seafood department, but Hagen's has the best bakery samples. And usually cheese.) I figured that some samples would be okay to eat, as long as there wasn't cake, which I figured was a safe bet, since I have never, ever seen cake samples at Hagen's. Until today.... ! So I bravely walked past the tray of cake and left my mother behind to have her sample.

Then we headed back to my mother's house. By now I was feeling tired and relished the thought of a little rest, even perhaps a nap. Then I had a secret plan to go see a movie later that night. So rest was important!

By 7:00 I was fully revived. Fortuitously so, as I was planning to go to the 8:10 showing of Baby Mama at the Alderwood Mall (the only nearby theatre where it was still showing). I invited my mother to come along (expecting it was too late for her) and was shocked when she accepted! (But pleased.) (I didn't really think about the implications of a movie about a late 30-something woman getting baby fever, given my parents' woes over not having grandchildren—which they've managed to suppress, or at least keep quiet, in recent years as both my sister and I have hit 40. But oh well. We're all adults. We can handle this stuff. Luckily it's a comedy.)

We bought popcorn, a movie theatre indulgence which I've largely resisted in recent years. (Today I was big into "I deserve this.") I've always been scared off movie theatre popcorn by the horror stories about the fat and calories in those giant tubs of "buttered" popcorn. But let me tell you this. Either Loew's is trying to cut our calories or rip us off, because for the same five bucks they've always charged, a medium bag of popcorn is shockingly modest in size. I'm sure it's no bigger than a bag of microwave popcorn. And although it may be popped in some outrageously bad-for-you oil, I eschewed the yellow butter-flavored grease topping. (Salty? Yes. And usually I would eschew salt as well. But after reading about the risks of hyponatremia when running [albeit, it's more of a problem for ultra-runners than 10Ks], I thought a little salt wouldn't hurt me on a weekend with two races.)

My heading says this was a great day, and that was in large part due to ending it with the wonderful Baby Mama. I'm no movie reviewer, in large part because my standards are not that high and I enjoy lots of movies that critics find just so-so. But I think many critics and I agree, Baby Mama is just a delight. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are perfect in their characters (baby-crazy business woman Fey hires Poehler to be her surrogate, when she learns she can't get pregnant), and there are lots of familiar faces in supporting roles (Steve Martin, Sigourney Weaver, Maura Tierney, Holland Taylor). And Greg Kinnear. Oh, sigh. He's always been adorable, but he's just getting better with age. (He's 45 years old, is it any wonder I find him irresistible? He's just the right age for me. Never mind that he's a married actor, with kids, living in a completely different location and world from me... let me have my moment of drooling.) Of course, it's partly because his character in this movie (a lawyer who left the corporate world to open a fruit smoothy shop) is so appealing. Anyhow, the movie was a lot of fun, with some unexpected plot twists, and a satisfying ending. I give it 4 stars!

And so ended day one.

That was fun, let's do it again!

Lynnwood Hi-5 10K

Groan. Getting out of bed early again for another 10K does not seem nearly so good an idea at 6 a.m. today. Or 6:30. At 7:00 it seems just barely possible. I dragged myself up and pulled on my running clothes (luckily laid out last night, otherwise I might not have managed). I don't know if my achiness is from the run on Saturday or just getting up.

I left the house at 7:30 or so. That was okay—I would still get to Alderwood by 8:00, plenty of time to register before the 9:00 run.

After a quick stop at Starbucks for a tall latte (not wanting to put too much milk in my stomach to slosh around), I ate a banana and a mini-breakfast cookie on the road. I was trying to find a delicate balance between nourishing myself for the race and eating too much too close to run time (only a little more than an hour from now).

Despite my mocking of a 10K at the mall, the benefits quickly became evident. Since the mall stores wouldn't open till 11, parking was easy to find. Plus, I would have a parking spot for as long as I chose to stay at the mall later! I parked near the Terraces (where the race started), so I could run back to the car as needed. After I turned in my registration and picked up my bib and chip, I took advantage of another mall benefit—Starbucks. Since I already had a drink, I felt free to plant myself at a table inside Starbucks and use their restroom as often as I needed to. Which was, of course, three times before the actual race start.

I didn't feel like as much of a warmup as yesterday. It was close to 8:30 before I left my cozy Starbucks spot to run around the mall parking lot. I went five minutes in one direction—all the way to P.F. Chang's—and then back. Since I still had a little bit of time (after a bathroom stop), I jogged around in the other direction. That led me to the start of the children's race, so I stood on the sidelines and clapped and cheered as the little ones ran (and straggled) by.

Then it was 9 a.m. Not quite time to start (they were a little behind schedule as usual) but time to gather at the starting line. And then—9:05, 9:06, 9:07?—we were off. As I crossed the timing mats, I worried slightly because my chip foot never actually struck the mat (turns out that doesn't matter, luckily). I didn't look at my watch at the actual start time, which prevented me from calculating my pace every mile—probably just as well. I need that Garmin, though!

We turned right out of the mall parking lot and then right again to run past the Rack and Calico Corners. After that I lost my sense of geography and just relied on the orange cones and numerous course workers to direct me. (I know we were on 44th at one point because I saw Washington Mutual.) There were numerous signs marking the kilometres and miles, each one with the name of a local business on it. I felt a certain irony when the 5K point was "sponsored" by a funeral home!

I would have expected Lynnwood to be flat, but not so. Only a mile or two in we hit the first hill; one of several throughout the race. I felt pretty good on the hills, maintaining my pace quite well. I passed several people, including two men in the first few miles. (Unfortunately they "came back" and powered past me near the end.)

About halfway through the only people anywhere near me (in front of me, that is—I didn't want to break my stride by looking back) were two women. We maintained a fairly even pace for quite some distance, until I slowly began to close the gap. I passed the young woman in green first. The other, wearing an aqua top, kept ahead of me until we hit another hill. Then I pulled ahead and never saw her again.

Not so for the girl in green. At about the same time as the two men passed and left me in their dust, Ms. Green pulled up on me as well. For the rest of the race we ran shoulder to shoulder. I didn't want to let her get ahead and I assume she felt the same. I don't know whether I was working to keep up with her or she with me! I think it may have been the former though, because as we turned back into the mall for the final two tenths mile, I felt myself flagging. I told her, go ahead, and she fiercely urged me on. "We've been together this far, let's finish!" I pushed myself as hard as I could, but in the last few steps I "let her" pull ahead and cross the finish line before me.

After we turned in our chips we congratulated each other and hugged. She said her Garmin said 53 something, which was good to know, as the time clock was set for the 5K and gave times which were several minutes short for us. Later I ran into her again and asked her what the splits were for the last couple miles. Mile 4 was about 8:30 and mile 5 was 8:09! I should have asked about the .2 as well. I really, really need a Garmin.

The chip times were posted a bit later (it's amazing how how that works) and my official time was 53:35 (apparently an 8:39 pace). I was first out of five in my age group (women 40-49) (got a medal for that), 7th out of 27 women, and 31st out of 56 participants.

Another good thing about this run? Good food. I grabbed a few mini-water bottles, wrapped a giant chocolate chip cookie in napkins to save for later (and then later went back and took another cookie to eat immediately), and had two small cups of Jamba Juice strawberry smoothie (shades of Baby Mama movie). (But no Greg Kinnear anywhere to be seen.)

After watching the awards and confirming that I didn't win any door prizes, I slipped into the Starbucks restroom to change my clothes. Then it was time to head out to my next destination, just across the way to the movie theatre to see Sex and the City!

I loaded up with a small popcorn and large diet coke, and settled into my seat for a sublime movie experience.

How do people write about movies without either spoiling the plot or just raving endlessly?

I'll choose raving.

Here's my review: ♥♥♥♥ That's four hearts (hope they translate when this is published), meaning I love, love, love, loved it.

From the moment I saw the first preview before another movie a couple months ago, I have been anticipating this movie. Sure, that's a recipe for a letdown (although remember? I have low standards, so I am very rarely let down too much).

The movie trailer that first pulled me in....

A little background to help understand why this movie touched me so much.

I have never had HBO, but I watched all the original episodes of Sex and the City on video (and later, DVD), as soon as they were available. I still watch reruns on TBS and syndicated TV. (And in fact, I have become so used to the "edited" versions that I wasn't quite prepared for the return of graphic sex scenes!)

So the moment the movie opened with a touching nod to the history of these characters, I was drawn in. I started crying and, actually, I cried throughout the movie (my wad of paper napkins, meant for popcorn fingers, got all used up).

I can't really identify with any of these characters with regard to their glamorous lifestyles and, er, active love lives, but still I identified with them as my peers (that means 40-something-year-olds). And in fact, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, and Cynthia Nixon are all exactly the same age as me. (That's a change, isn't it? Actresses playing characters that are the same age as they are.) (I especially feel a bond with Sarah Jessica Parker since I have known her as an actress my age since we were both young. Me, Sarah Jessica, and Brooke Shields; we're like this....

Anyhow, my one little spoiler (which has very little to do with the plot), is that I especially identified when Carrie was dubbed "the last single woman over 40." Waterworks.

Oh yes, there were many touching moments (tears), happy moments (tears), sad moments (tears).

Would everyone find this movie as moving as I did? Well, I'm sure it depends upon your propensity to cry in movies. I just talked to one person (who's not even 30 yet), who found it just as tearjerking as I did, while her friend mocked her for crying. (Needless to say, I think women would be most likely to cry—but who knows?)

I wonder, though, if I was even more open to the gamut of emotions because of the state I was in after running the 10K—surged with endorphins, already on an emotional roller coaster because of the race. Isn't there a close tie between euphoria and despair? If I think of my typical emotional state as closed (doors locked, windows shuttered, no one's getting in there!), perhaps running (especially the intense running in a race) is a way of opening up, flinging open the doors and windows, so for that short time frame after a run, when I am suffused with exhilaration, I am able to freely express emotions that I would typically keep in an emotional vault.

Or maybe I'm just a sucker for sentimental tricks.

Actually, I feel quite spent after looking up all those fancy words. Here's some more I like. Ecstasy, joy, jubilation, exultation, rapture, contentment, pleasure, gladness, cheerfulness, glee, bliss, delight, enchantment, satisfaction. Running can produce all of these emotions, and, in fact, help take away your sadness, grief, sorrow, misery, depression, wretchedness, melancholy, gloom, despondency, dejection, and woe. Doesn't that sound good?

So the next time you're feeling a touch of melancholy, perhaps a nice run will bring on some cheerfulness. And if you're suffering from dejection (and maybe even rejection), sign up for a 5K or 10K to fire up a dose of exultation or even rapture! (That might be asking a bit much, but depending on the post-race goodies, who knows? Bananas and bagels, maybe some pleasure. Chocolate chip cookies and Jamba Juice smoothies, bliss!)

I topped off my delightful afternoon with a quick trip through the mall and the purchase of a pair of shoes at Nordstrom's (pleasure) (although nothing as decadent as you'll see in the movie) (I am, of course, referring to shoes).

Then home and, in the late afternoon sunshine (which was not to be seen in the morning), I planted my sweet peas (satisfaction).